Flights of Love
sees Bernhard Schlink build on the success of his international bestselling debut novel, The Reader
, with a clutch of short stories that tell of the variety of love, distilled into seven splinters of narrative. The pick of the seven, the opening "Girl with Lizard," depicts a remote male character who fixates on a painting of his father's, which he is to discover, like his father, has a familiarly unsavory past, and which he is impelled to exorcise. In the book's centerpiece, "Sugar Peas," architect and amateur painter Thomas finds that his trio of lovers avenge themselves on his profligacy after he is left wheelchair-bound by an accident. "The Other Man" presents a widower corresponding with his dead wife's unwitting lover, and finding comfort through acquaintance. Less successfully, "The Circumcision" sees the pretext of a German man and his New York Jewish girlfriend to ponder huge, chewy rhetoric on the problems of reconciling the past, almost absentmindedly concocting an improbable denouement. Schlink too often presents scenarios rather than scenes, more intent on dislocated dilemma than language. In keeping with his legal training, he discerns lines of attack more suited to a drama, or perhaps a courtroom drama, than fiction. There can be no doubting Schlink's storytelling acumen or his undertaking to tackle the complicated identity of modern Germany. What is increasingly exposed, though, are the supporting mechanisms that too frequently serve to reinforce, rather than challenge, our assumptions with their didactic contrivance. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Schlink's The Reader was a surprise bestseller on these shores, discovered by Oprah and established by word of mouth. The writer's mastery of form, concise yet thorough probing of character, and concern with the moral implications of human behavior are again in evidence in these seven gripping stories. German men are protagonists in each of them, with some traits in common: a need for order, efficiency, respectability and righteousness, and a difficulty in expressing emotion. While the settings are mainly in Germany, two stories take place in North America and one in an unnamed South American country. Though love is the common emotion in each, not a trace of sentimentality mars the tensile energy of the narratives. Instead, Schlink examines the wounds inflicted by history and bitterness, jealousy and regret, neglect and repressed emotions. The penalties of love, and the lack of it, are paid by spouses, lovers, children. "A Little Fling," perhaps the most haunting story in the collection, deals with the legacy of betrayal fostered by the Berlin Wall. The shadow of the Holocaust prevents a man from experiencing love in "Girl with Lizard" and bewilders another young man in "The Circumcision," whose title threatens to remove suspense, but Schlink adds a quietly devastating twist at the end. Despite Schlink's matter-of-fact depiction of events, "The Other Man" and "Sugar Peas" can test credibility, but both stories are anchored in such strikingly portrayed characters that the reader's trust remains strong. The clarity of Schlink's vision and the calm eloquence with which it's expressed make these tales classics of their genre. First serial to the New Yorker.
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